Saturday, 17 March 2012


There are lots of blogs about book publishing in the doldrums, the death of books and the rise and rise of ebooks. There is no doubt that the industry has been slow to meet these challenges. What is surprising is that while big publishers are able to get their books on Amazon and sell at heavily discounted prices the smaller ones are struggling to do the same. The tight budgets that we are all facing makes it harder to sell books.

What is the realistic price of a paperback novel by a debut novelist? I would say not more than a tenner. The ebook should be even more competitive. I've seen fantastic writers like prize winner Catherine Czerkawska even offering her ebooks free for a limited period online. This is the way to take on the big publishers and make sure newer writers make some headway in this fiercely competitive world. More novels and writers will be able to get their work to more readers in this way. Both books and ebooks should be well produced and priced to suit the pockets of readers in these difficult times.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Rather good

'Aye Write' for me started with the 'Poetry Slam ' at the rather late time of 9.30 - 11 pm,almost my bedtime! I walked into a jam packed theatre to loud music that I was not familiar with(I'm still with the 1960's 70's sounds!) and a very young crowd. I recognised two of the judges but no one else in the audience. Once the programmes started, Robin Cairns the MC made sure it was humourous and enjoyable. Sixteeen poets/writers braved it on to the stage, winners from all parts of Scotland. The standard was superb. The winner Kevin Cadwallender's opening rendition of his 'Dalek's Skincare' in a Dalek's voice won the crowd over. His words and delivery was perfect- it was 'Worth it' as he put it. His second round poem on the existentialist builder was even funnier. I recalled Walt Whitman's 'O Me! O Life!' What a wealth of talented poets we have in Glasgow?

The next few days were with SWC workshop and the Amnesty International's programme of imprisoned prisoner's work. Laura Marney, Sue Reid Sexton, a journalist from Gambia and a novelist read four pieces of work that showed us how we take freedom for granted. An excellent event to raise awareness of the tremendous work done by journalists like Marie Colvin who gave up their lives so that the truth could be accessed by all of us around the world.

Moira Mc Partlin staged a totally different book launch of her debut novel 'The Incomers' with a dramatisation of scenes from the book. I've just started to read the my copy that she kindly signed and it is interesting. The story of a West African woman arriving in a tiny Fife mining village written by a local person is new. The prejudices of the 1960's when the area had never seen a black woman is portrayed in the book. Some of the vocabulary is shocking but she struck a cord with the audience.I do remember my own friends advising me not to write too much about racism in my two novels, perhaps it is easier to accept it from a local writer. I wish Moira well in her new career.

Alex Mc Call Smith was a laugh a minute event. He addressed all the issues of writing about Africa in what I consider sometimes in a patronising way, but he argued that there were enough novels of a dystopian or depressing topic and he relished writing the way he did. He related how the first edition of his Botswana series started as a short story and then the book had a print of just 1500, then another 500, progressed to more when he got the New York rights signed. He celebrated his signing the New York contract by buying a pair of suede mocassins, such simplicity. Later as his success mounted he was driven in a huge limousine around NY and he rang his agent in London to reassure him that it was well deserved. His tales about Bertie and his 'pushy mum' in the Scotland series had us all roaring with laughter.A wonderful writer who is adored by Weegies and Burghers of Morningside!!

I am looking forward to Noo Saro-Wiwa and Professor Tom Devine's event on Saturday. Also the exciting winner of the Short Story Competition will be announced at the SWC 's showcase event at the 'Aye Write'on the same day.

I am sure many of you have been enjoying the other events at the Festival.

My tutor from the 'World Literature' classes invited me to their lunch at the end of this session. So kind of her when I could not attend even one of the classes. It was good to meet up with the friends there. I had thoroughly lovely day with them, first at lunch at Stravaigin then at her beautiful flat in Strathblane. The Falls of Ballgan are a backdrop to her house and the burn runs along the estate. Stunning rural setting.

Ah... life is wonderful. Now I better get that family memoir done and dusted!!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Back Home

I've returned from a fabulous holiday filled with happy memories of being with family and friends. The warmth of their love and the Indian sun has rejuvenated me and I hope to complete my ‘Family Memoir' quite soon and start working on Novel number three.

Jaipur Literature Festival was the start of my holidays and it is one I would recommend all bookworms to experience. The weather is cool, (need a sweater/jacket in the evening), the sunlight during the day highlights all that is great about the venue, ‘Diggi Palace’ the tents and gardens. Of course this year the hype about ‘Oprah’s visit’ and the controversy over Salman Rushdie’s being forced to cancel his event overshadowed what was a superb festival. The bookshop was busy and I foolishly bought six books which I found difficult to bring back with only 23 kgs of allowed baggage. I got The Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi, The Folded Earth by Anuradha Roy and ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari' by Robin Sharma etc. I have to buy that Kindle soon. Don't miss the photograph of the Rajasthani Piper!

One of my friends looked at the photos of my holiday and asked me why there is not any photo of the slums and poverty in India. A valid question but my answer is simple. I think that there is enough of that on TV in the West. India still has enormous number of poor. On the other hand maids, drivers, vegetable vendors, shopkeepers (in tiny shacks not the air-conditioned malls, some twice the size of Braehead) and most urban people have a mobile phone. Their standard of living has risen; there is no doubt about that. India 'Shining' has a long way to go to be on par with the West but it has made great strides in the last decade.

The ashram was a calm and serene place after the hectic cities of Chennai, Jaipur and Bangalore. Free education from primary to University to Post Graduate level for the poorest, the super speciality hospital providing even heart transplants free to the poorest is so impressive, as is the total commitment of volunteers, who donate and serve in any capacity that suits them, with their time and effort.The last two photos are of the hospital and school at the ashram. I am proud of my sister and brother-in-law who have dedicated their lives to serving the needy at the ashram.

The constant question I was asked was about my new book 'Bombay Baby'. There were so many wanting to buy it in India, so the few copies that I had for the family is now doing its rounds in Chennai. My family in USA, Canada, Oz are also desperate to read it.I had no idea that there were so many people looking forward to my second book. I am grateful them for their support and interest.

Now that I am back home it is good to get back to the routine of writing. The ‘Aye Write’ Festival is on and there are so many literary events to look forward to. The weather is better, the sun shines here most days, it is brighter and spring is in the air. What more do I need?

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